PROJECTChanging Community College Systems for Student Success

College Persistence and Completion

College Persistence and Completion

Providing Academic and
Nonacademic Support Services

To increase student persistence and completion, community colleges are developing new ways to provide academic and nonacademic support services. Academic supports include performing initial assessments, determining goals and plans for coursework, accessing tutors or other academic help, and assisting with transfers to other schools. Nonacademic supports include ways schools contribute to student success outside of academic content, such as transportation, child care, or skills for navigating college life.


Enhanced advising
Colleges redesign their advisory systems to strengthen connections between advisers and students, often with more frequent (sometimes mandatory) meetings rather than just an initial planning or course-selection meeting. Given that community colleges often have a high ratio of students to advisers, colleges may enhance services for specific groups of students. Other colleges are leveraging technology to expand advisers’ capacity.

Provision of direct supports
Community colleges fund or find partners to fund the direct provision of supports such as child care and transportation. Some colleges provide referrals to partner organizations that can provide these supports.

College-readiness or student-success courses
These classes provide students with skills for success in college, such as how to manage their time, study efficiently, take tests optimally, and get assistance when they need it. They are sometimes targeted to certain groups, such as first-generation students or older students who have been away from the classroom environment.

Debt-forgiveness policies
These policies are designed to alleviate the financial barriers to students who dropped out and owe money to the college and help them return and complete their program quickly.

Examples From the Field

Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success

Achieving the Dream and its partner EDUCAUSE developed a technology-mediated advising model that uses technology for education planning, counseling, and coaching. The model targets resources to students at greatest risk of not completing their education. It was implemented through 26 grants to institutions of higher education across the country; the grants ended in December 2018.

Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative

This statewide program supports the education and training needs of low-income custodial caretakers by addressing students’ child care needs. The initiative provides case management and support services such as transportation, tuition, books, supplies, child care, and assessments related to employment. Since starting in 2005, the Career Pathways Initiative has served over 30,000 students in Arkansas, most of whom needed help meeting their child care needs. The program is managed and administrated by the Department of Higher Education and funded by the Department of Workforce Services through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families state block grant.

College Persistence and Completion

Redesigning Developmental and
Adult Education Programming

Over one-third of community college students need to improve their developmental or basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. Colleges often require that students take a set of standardized developmental classes that do not provide credit and must be completed before taking college-level classes. This lengthens the time to program completion and can lead to early drop out. Evidence is mixed on whether this standard model leads to more students completing college-level courses or receiving a credential or degree. Several strategies have been developed to help students improve basic skills more quickly.


Developmental requirements targeted to student needs
Colleges match a student’s developmental learning requirements to what is needed for his or her program. The developmental learning can be contextualized to use the vocabulary, concepts, and specific needs for a program of study. This includes bridge programs that help nontraditional students prepare for and transition to specific programs of study.

Integration of basic skills instruction into college-level courses
Programs of study for a specific degree or credential incorporate the teaching of requisite basic skills into the coursework, often with contextualized learning, team teaching, and tutoring.

“Corequisite” models
These models let students take developmental classes while taking college-level courses.

Examples From the Field

Accelerated Learning Program (ALP)

ALP is a corequisite model that places a cohort of students who need developmental writing into college-level writing classes with additional instruction outside of class. It began in 2007 at the Community College of Baltimore County, and evaluations have shown that it increases course completion relative to students in standard developmental classes. More than 300 schools around the country have adopted ALP or something similar.  Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, and Virginia have adopted wide-scale ALPs.

College Persistence and Completion

Helping Students Advance in a Program of Study through Transfer and Articulation Agreements

Community colleges may develop transfer and articulation agreements that allow students to move from one institution to another (e.g., from a high school to a community college or a community college to a four-year institution) or from non-credit-earning to credit-earning programs within an institution. Transfer and articulation agreements are a key part of using career pathway programs to ensure students can advance. State community college systems may also spearhead these efforts. Gaining internal buy-in from administrators and faculty is crucial to the successful development of agreements.


Agreements across institutions
Community colleges may work with other community colleges or four-year institutions to develop agreements that allow students to transfer to a more advanced program of study and have their credits count toward a credential, especially a degree.

Articulation policies within a community college
A community college may develop a policy to allow students’ coursework in a non-credit-earning program to articulate to a credit-earning program in the same field of study.

Examples From the Field

Coconino County Community College District’s (CCCCD) Reverse Transfer Policy

CCCCD developed a reverse-transfer policy with Northern Arizona University (NAU) to increase the number of students who transfer to NAU to complete baccalaureate degrees. Students who transferred to NAU could have credits transferred back to CCCCD, allowing them to complete the course requirements for an associate’s degree from the community college while attending a four-year degree program at NAU. NAU also modified and upgraded a web-based degree audit and tracking system so participants can see courses transferred from other institutions and courses needed to complete a degree. CCCCD students with access to this policy were 3.5 times more likely to transfer to a four-year institution than those who did not have access.

Research Areas Education Workforce
Tags Job training